A Georgia man who'd worked at his church as a choir director for more than 20 years says something changed after a Christmas party he hosted at his home.
WABE in Atlanta shared the story of Ira Pittman, who says some who went to that event at his house complained it was actually a "coming-out party" masquerading as a Christmas party.
Pittman's partner of 16 years was there, mingling with the guests from the music department at Mount Bethel United Methodist Church. The next day Pittman brought his partner to a Christmas party at the senior minister's house.
It was all apparently too much for members of the church who, according to WABE, told the the senior minister they "could no longer tolerate this."
The story is a reminder that the Methodist Church still doesn't allow for openly LGBT clergy and bans same-sex marriage. But Pittman's case is odd because he isn't a member of the clergy and wasn't married at the time. He's filed a complaint over discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Good news is he's since gotten married.
"Today is a most wonderful day," Pittman wrote on Facebook April 2, "the day that I MARRIED my partner of 16 years, William Russell Bill Garner." Pittman called him "my best friend and love of my life."
The Advocate reported last year, ahead of the marriage equality ruling handed down by the Supreme Court, that experts worried "More of You Could Be Fired for Getting Married." And in many cases, that's what we've seen.
Religious organizations that were overlooking the open secrets of their LGBT employees suddenly stopped, normally having their eyes opened after an employee got married.
But the Methodist Church faces an even more tense situation as leaders meet this month at the General Conference in Portland, Ore., to decide whether to change church law -- something that happens only once every four years.
Earlier this month, 111 Methodist clergy members came out publicly in an act of protest. They signed onto "A Love Letter to Our Church From Your LGBTQI Religious Leaders," which was published by the Reconciling Ministries Network, which represents LGBT-accepting Methodist churches.
For its part, Pittman's former church shared on its blog last year a story from the publisher of Good News Magazine, Rev. Rob Renfroe, who argued against a compromise deal that allowed individual churches to decide on acceptance.
"A 'compromise' that provides no benefit to one side is no compromise," wrote Renfroe. "What do traditionalists 'get' out of this compromise? Nothing except the knowledge that (1) they have compromised their principles and (2) the certainty that they will be forced to debate this issue every year at their annual conferences."
Renfroe predicted that "many pastors will feel forced to leave the denomination and will do all they can to take their congregations with them."